“Children under the age of five are being denied positive gender role models in many nursery settings as the people who are educating and caring for young children do not reflect the society those children are living in and being brought up in.”June O’Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF).
To mark National Apprenticeship Week (6-12th February), LEYF is calling for more gender-diversity across the Early Years workforce by encouraging schools, career advisors and recruiters to proactively promote more flexible attitudes towards gender roles and cut the stigma attached to it. The aim being to encourage boys and young men to consider school courses and work experience which can provide career pathways into early education and childcare.
This comes at a time when less than 3% of the childcare workforce are men. Incorporating as much diversity into a setting not only supports learning outcomes but ensures children see both positive male and female Early Years teachers from an early age.
LEYF, which runs 40 social enterprise nurseries across London, says careers advice should communicate to boys and men that working in early education and childcare is fulfilling, challenging, and offers good career progression. The advice needs to ‘normalise’ male participation in the childcare industry – offering men clear information about what the work involves, the kinds of qualities and skills required, and the varied pathways that exist for men who want to consider a career in early years, including entry at higher education level. With women stereotypically viewed as the main care givers, it’s a career few men would even consider – but this needs to change.
Over the past two years, LEYF has designed an innovative, male-only cohort of apprenticeships in Early Years (working with the under 5’s) to help boost the number of men joining the sector. Using research carried out by LEYF over the past ten years has enabled the organisation to better understand why men work with small children and, more importantly, what the children think about having male teachers and educators.
The 12-18-month salaried training programme offers hands on experience and training in one of LEYF’s diverse settings. Upon successful completion, all apprentices will be given a guaranteed interview for a LEYF teacher post.
At present and out of LEYF’s 857 employees, 6.7% of its workforce are male which is well above the average sector of 3%. The ambition is to increase this to 10% – especially given that 84% of LEYF parents want to see more men working in childcare.
June O’Sullivan MBE and CEO of London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) adds:
“As evidence shows, men and women interact with children in subtly different and complementary ways. When you combine both parts, children’s learning and development becomes much more enriched and this is hugely important.”
Michelle Samuels, Apprentice Manager at LEYF explains: “For many reasons, childcare is not a career pathway which many young men often consider because of the negative stereotypes associated with it and a lack of information from schools, careers advisors and recruiters. However, we now want to see this change by promoting more flexible attitudes towards gender roles and encouraging young men to consider a career in the Early Years.”